Skiers have an overwhelming number of choices when it comes to what we wear. Making the right choice matters; we want it to look good, it needs to fit, and, most importantly, it has to work.
At Thread the Needle, the foundational event for this Apparel Guide, the 16 skiers from across the country—who make up the Powder Order of Sartorial Splendor and Excellence (POSSE)—spent a combined 300-plus hours reviewing more than 100 jackets and pants at Solitude Mountain, Utah, to sift through the year's newest products. These 15 men’s jackets received top ratings and the Skier’s Choice badge.
(Click on a jacket to skip down to review):
686 Men’s GLCR Hydrastash Reservoir Jacket
Arc’teryx Men’s Sabre LT Jacket
Armada Men’s Balfour Gore-Tex Pro 3L Jacket
Burton Men’s AK Tusk 3L Jacket
Dakine Men’s Clark Anorak
Flylow Men’s Cooper Jacket
Helly Hansen Men’s Ridge Shell 2.0 Jacket
Marmot Men’s BL Pro Jacket
Outdoor Research Men’s Hemispheres Jacket
Patagonia Men’s Powderbowl Jacket
Picture Men’s Zephir Jacket
Quiksilver Men’s Black Alder Jacket
Scott Men’s Vertic GTX 3L Jacket
Spyder Men’s Eiger Shell Jacket
The North Face Men’s Purist Jacket
The 686 Hydrastash Reservoir Jacket had an integrated water reservoir around the powder skirt to help POSSE members rehydrate after a long night of partying, followed by a toasty spring day of hill banging around Solitude. The BPA-free bladder can hold 0.75L of water, and everyone who tested this jacket appreciated the fluid stash—noting that even when full it wasn't too heavy.
The jacket features infiDRY 20k Stretch Fabric that is treated with DWR for water resistance and storm riding. It's a fully taped seamed shell with a light 80g Polyfill insulation throughout the body and 60g along the sleeves and has similar attributes to other jackets like vents, pant jacket connecting systems, etc. But the storyline is the patent pending built-in hydration system that's easily accessed through a small straw at the collar.
For those traveling from sea-level to ski resorts that reside at high elevation, and who don't want to stop for water as they maximize their weekend getaway of skiing, this is worth a look. It's more at home at the resort or for park laps given that this jacket is warm and a bit bulky.
During a blizzard or windstorm, few things are more annoying than a jacket hood that won't fit over your rooster hat or helmet. Fret no more with the three-layer Gore-Tex Sabre LT, featuring a large storm hood that can be easily cinched with one hand while wearing gloves or mitts. A Gore-Tex C-Knit backing makes this jacket super breathable, bulletproof, and less crinkly.
Two sizable chest pockets complement pit zips (all zippers are seam taped), while the fit allows for layering and freedom of movement. Bonus: A longer cut eliminates the too-short-riding-up-the-back syndrome.
Built with Gore-Tex Pro, a fabric that's engineered to tolerate the work/rest cycles accustomed with backcountry skiing, the Armada Balfour Gore-Tex 3L jacket is a no-frills shell that will stand up to the demands of winter. "It had an awesome fit and style, with great pockets and vents," says Utah photographer John Howland.
Additional qualities include a three-way adjustment on the hood and the ability to snap to an Armada jacket when the conditions are deep. Like many backcountry shells on the market, it's equipped with RECCO—an Avalanche Rescue System which is utilized worldwide to determine the quick location of avalanche burials, although be aware it is not a substitute for a beacon.
The articulated and technical style, with a freestyle oriented fit, make this is an ideal jacket for moving between inbounds and the backcountry. When layered appropriately, the Gore-Tex Pro membrane regulates temperatures and moisture so you won't get that trash-bag clammy feeling when missioning for that next powder stash.
While many brands caught the eyes of the POSSE, none surprised as many people as Burton—in particular the new AK line.
The Tusk Jacket utilizes a Gore-Tex 3 layer pro shell that is solution dyed (saving water in production), and manages to be both breathable and able to withstand pelting snow and wind. "I forgot I was in Burton," said Spencer Harkins. Those notions were felt throughout the week by the POSSE crew with Erme Catino commenting that "the fit was dialed and wore extremely well, better than some ski-specific shells out there."
Equipped with large pockets to stash your skins on your chest, and well thought out details such as reflectors for dawn patrolling and an arm pocket that holds a small base scraper—an essential tool for any backcountry skier. It has a soft and supple feel with a longer cut, because lets face it… touring shells don't need to be tight and dorky looking anymore.
The women's cut also impressed Heather Hansman noting the, "relaxed fit is wider at the waist and with a longer cut to cover the tush." So don't let the brand name fool you, this shell is a worthy contender for anyone who plays in the mountains regardless if you ride one plank or two.
The Clark Anorak simply feels great and looks different from the rest. A three-quarter-zip pullover jacket, the two-layer Clark Anorak features a fixed hood and 10k/10k waterproof-breathability. The massive kangaroo pocket is big enough to hold snacks, drinks, an extra beanie, and sunglasses for après. When it's warm or steamy, two pit zips can cool you off on the lift, including one that goes from the hem all the way up through the armpit. If you don't mind the pullover anorak feature, the Clark exists for those resort skiers who prefer style to technical function. It's also really affordable.
True to Flylow's ski-bum roots, the Cooper is a sleek shell that transitions easily between the resort and backcountry, with an understated but fashionable mountain style. The most interesting element of the jacket, however, is its material, developed by Intuitive exclusively for Flylow. The Perm is a three-layer stretchy fabric that's 20k in waterproofing with exceptional breathability.
During a torrential spring downpour, the Cooper kept the POSSE remarkably dry and skiing throughout the day. But it also doesn't suffocate on the bootpack, and includes 12-inch pit zips to dump even more heat. A freeride cut gives the Cooper ample length, while stretch throughout encourages all the high-fives you can dish out.
The Ride Shell 2.0 takes a page from Helly Hansen's Norwegian fishing and boating heritage, known for garments that keep you dry and warm. Utilizing their Helly Tech Pro 3L fabric, this 20K stretch fabric jacket feels soft. The longer freeride cut is tailored around the pockets and pit zips, giving it a loose fit without being boxy. Another feature which pays homage to their Scandinavian boating roots is the high visibility hood—a bit burlier in construction and can be a good marker for when your friends need to see you pillaging powder into a whiteout.
Perhaps one of the slickest features on the Ridge Shell 2.0 is the Life Pocket for your smartphone. The insulated pocket with Aerogel Insulation keeps your phone's battery life from draining in the cold, so you can make sure to get that 'gram,' or have enough juice to find your friends at après. Other things that caught the POSSE's eye included the big zipper pulls and large cuffs, which made for easy adjustments whilst wearing gloves.
If you've been around the ski block long enough, the first thing that will come to mind when you see the Marmot BL Pro Jacket is the golden sun / sienna red color combination synonymous with Doug Coombs. While a bit of a throwback, this kit is a nod to the chosen one by his former sponsor.
The BL Pro Jacket utilizes a three layer Gore-Tex Pro fabric that is fully seam sealed from the elements, yet breathable enough for when you're moving around the mountains in heavy snow. The two double-breasted pockets stash your skins—keeping them warm—with additional pockets below. The jacket is cut to provide maximum movement while traveling through the mountains, i.e. with a pack on and while earning your turns, and has a high collar for settling in and warding off the elements.
"Top of the line material and bitchin' colorway," said former New Yorker Micah Abrams. So while you may not ski like Doug (note that it is also offered in two other colorways), you can emulate his style and grace in the BL Pro.
Editor’s note: The Hemispheres Jacket and Hemispheres Bib, for both men and women, scored highest across the board for their superior technical performance and comfortable fit, earning the nod for our first-ever Apparel of the Year.
The Hemispheres kit features a new material, called Gore-Tex Fabric with Stretch Technology, in strategic locations. The black material is a rippling, supple fabric you'd expect to see in a yoga studio that stretches smooth with little effort. Unlike the first pair of sensuous stretch pants introduced to the world by Willy Bogner in 1952, the stretch Gore-Tex in the Hemispheres Bib is found around the lower back, at the waist, and in the crotch. On the jacket, a narrow stretch panel spans from under the arms, across the back and shoulders, and extends around the middle of the hood.
Combined, this kit offered the POSSE an increased range of motion through hikes up Honeycomb Ridge, 3 o'clock bump-offs, and midnight ski tours, without sacrificing the durable waterproofing and breathability Gore-Tex is known for.
"It passed the spread eagle test," said Caitlin Kelly, one of the four women ranging from 5-foot-6 to 6 feet tall who fit comfortably in a medium bib. "It's flattering and very flexible and easy to move in. This is great material—I feel like they're barely there when I'm skiing."
The jacket's pocket placement—designed to accommodate a harness or pack belt—had universal appeal, as did the helmet-compatible hood with a wire brim halo to keep the field of vision open when storm skiing. On warmer days, skiers can dump heat through the jacket's unique venting zips that run vertically from the drawcord hem to the pits (something that took a few skiers a bit to get used to).
Outer thigh vents on the bibs, which Utah photographer John Howland called his favorite piece of the week, also help to regulate body temps when touring. The women on the POSSE were ecstatic over the bib's extra long side zip combined with stretch paneling that made going to the bathroom the easiest we've ever had it.
The four-way stretch in both the jacket and bib allow for even more temperature control, thanks to comfortable layering under a tailored fit. Details like reinforced cuff guards, a beacon pocket, and a minimal weight—just over a pound each for the jacket and bib—make the Hemispheres kit fully equipped for skiing all terrain in any weather.
Built with 100-percent recycled Gore-Tex face fabric, the new Powderbowl jacket from Patagonia eases consumers mind when thinking about the impact their new jacket takes on the environment. Manufacturing gear and creating them to withstand the elements takes energy and water.
And given our sport is so heavily reliant on winter climate conditions, it is refreshing to see Patagonia cut their reliance on petroleum while creating new products. The company increased their recycled material garments this year by 23 percent, diverting 215,435 pounds of factory scraps and plastic bottles from the waste stream.
POSSE members raved on its post-consumer recycled material, which is soft and impressively quiet. The light liner, consisting of a 90 percent recycled polyester—called Thermogreen—has 60g and 100g fill for slight warmth and is stitched to provide easy repair. However, the Powderbowl jacket's attributes don't end with its eco-friendly nature. The jacket is refined, with a fit that isn't too baggy or tight and is extremely durable.
"Simple, killer fit. No features I didn’t like," said Spencer Harkins. “The Powderbowl is perfect for everyday resort shredding or for jaunts in the backcountry.”
For many, this may be the first time hearing about the French company, Picture, who made the move to distribute in North America in 2017.
Known for their fresh styles with flashes of fun prints and pops color, the company is also known for transparency in their environmental footprint which earned them two ISPO Awards in Europe. The brand developed the ability to knit a technical jacket rather than weave it and all of their technical products use a water repellent that is PFC Free (Perfluorochemicals are a known immunology hazard to humans).
The Zephir Jacket, from their award-winning Expedition Line—Picture's most technical line—utilizes a 20K dryplay recyclable membrane (46% of the jacket derives from recycled polyester), with 10K of breathability. Executive Editor Matt Hansen called it, "soft and cozy with a cool shape." He also noted the hood and collar fit over a helmet well. POSSE Member Erme Catino also admired the roomy, but stylish fit saying, "it had a long freeride cut with lots of pockets and is great for cruising around and hot lapping."
Loaded with pockets, the Black Alder jacket from Quicksilver blends park style with functionality, featuring an urban cut that looks on point while at the hill and rolling through town. Several skiers applauded the seamless hanging liner of engineered jacquard mesh, noting they didn't get hot [during a week that got progressively warmer as winter transitioned from cold snow to spring tulips], means a lot.
The Gore-Tex 2L shell has fully taped seams and a fixed hood with a snap away powder skirt. The baggy fit functions well for resort skiing and was noted for its tilt towards park skiers with longer sleeves and steezy design. "Solid for the price point," stated one member of the POSSE while another noted, "I never got hot. Awesome color way, longer freeride cut, light and easy to layer… Super comfy."
Developed in partnership with Scott's freeride team, and used extensively by them as well. The Vertic GTX 3L is composed of Gore-Tex 3L, giving the jacket top of the line durability, waterproof and windproof protection, with the ability to breathe while hiking for lines.
The fully tape seamed jacket, is ideal for storm riding and battling the elements and weighs in at 900g, not too far off Scott's Vertic Tour which is designed for touring—weighing in 680g. Racing coach Tommy Flitton said "the upper material stretches and is comfortable; nice pocket placement, with a good taper." On the women's side ER nurse Hannah Barkey noted, "it's comfortable, flexible [not stiff], and is breathable with zip vents that are easy to use." Overall everyone who tested it noted it was 'really comfortable'.
The Scott Vertic GTX 3L jacket has freeride cut with muted colorways, a multitude of pockets for resort or backcountry, and is perfect as a standalone shell for when temperatures are mild, and when layered with a puffy it's ideal for colder or windier days.
Spyder comes to market this season with a full line of apparel with Gore-Tex for high performance in any condition. A non-insulated shell built with all the technical features you need to stay warm, dry, and active, the Eiger has three-layer nylon ripstop with Gore-Tex and a durable water repellent (DWR) finish.
POSSE skiers praised the Eiger for its freeride cut, excellent venting, and ease with which to layer depending on temperature and mission. "This piece is really technical and lightweight," said Salt Lake City-based skier John Howland. "They really dialed the little things well, with solid zippers and pocket placement." Jack Foersterling called the Eiger the "ultimate backcountry kit."
A simple yet technical Gore-Tex 3L jacket, The North Face Purist is constructed with a 70-denier nylon with elastane ripstop. POSSE Members agreed the fit was primo, and was articulated in all the right spots—such as the shoulders, back, and arms.
The freeride inspired cut gives it a long length, with the two front pockets seemingly a bit too low—but were designed so that you could access them with a pack on. They seemed a little excessive given the two very large chest pockets.
Other notable attributes were the radio-microphone attachment on the collar, which would make communication easy while traveling in the backcountry via the skin track or on a sled. Photographer John Howland said it was his favorite jacket of the week, "technical, stylish, and durable." Backcountry enthusiast Erme Catino noted "the lightweight material had breathability and seems like it would handle storms with ease." Seattle-based writer Heather Hansman praised the women's fit as well.